“I will give you rest”

Along time ago, back in 1977, my friend and I work as chaplains at a hospital in Milwaukee. As part of our seminary training we were involved in what was known as the CPE program which stands for clinical pastoral education. It was a valuable experience. Candidates for holy orders were given the opportunity to work as hospital chaplains in a clinical setting. Though it were a long time ago, I still appreciate what things what I learned from that program.

Working in a hospital experience was a different experience for my friend and me. And, after one particularly frustrating day my friend came up to me and said “I finally figured out CPE stands for.”

“What’s that?” I asked, knowing that my friend had a propensity for a very keen wit.
“It’s simple,” he said. I’ve had a fairly exasperating day and I discovered CPE stands for Can’t Please Everyone. Try as I might, I have come to discover you just can’t do it.”

For some reason I found myself thinking back to that story today as I was reading the Gospel selection for this week, Matthew 11.16f.

At first blush it seems that even our Lord himself was having a rather frustrating day. Personally, this instance reminds us about our Lord’s humanity, for any one among us would be provoked under those circumstances. Try as he might, it was clear that the people were not catching the vision.

• Where he would talk of spiritual things, the people were all the more interested in having their temporal needs met.

• Where he would instruct them to labor for the food did not perish, they insisted on that which was temporary ; satisfying in the short run, but unfulfilling in the long run.

• In today’s Gospel, our Lord seems to be rather sensitive to some aspects of criticism.

• He also seems to be wondering about a great irony. That irony being that the people didn’t like what John the Baptist had to say in his clarion call for repentance. But they also didn’t like the gentler approach of our Lord Jesus as he called people to a vision of the kingdom of God. “we piped but you did not dance; we lamented but you did not mourn.”

It sounds rather much as if they are saying, “ If we are going to have a savior, we need one who will get with our program.”

Well, our Lord may does not promise to get with the prevailing program, but for those who are willing to hear it and who are willing to respond there is a promise of refreshment which is the marvelous part of this Gospel reading. There is the invitation that some of us will recall as what were known as the “comfortable words” offered in the as a part of the rite of the General Confession. “Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light. You will find rest for Your souls.”

In 1983, a British musical duo who became known as the Eurithmics released a hit record that became popular world wide. Their hit song was Sweet Dreams:

Sweet dreams are made of this
Who am I to disagree?
I travel the world and the seven seas
Everybody’s looking for something

Some of them want to use you
Some of them want to get used by you
Some of them want to abuse you
Some of them want to be abused

Sweet dreams are made of this
Who am I to disagree?
I travel the world and the seven seas
Everybody’s looking for something

Human nature is such that everybody is looking for something. We cannot help it, for we were created that way. And what is it that we seek? Solutions to our problems? Meaningful contribution to life? Health? Since it is the 4th of July Weekend: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

In essence, everybody is looking for something, and the bottom line is that something we seek is rest for our souls. We seek interior peace, rest, freedom from anxiety, contentment and joy, all of which are not tangible things, though we may try to seek them through tangible things. And since we seek them through temporal things, true joy and true happiness often elude us because true joy and true happiness come from within.

So, would you lay your burdens down? Would you find that rest? Then come to him who is the promise of that rest, our Lord Jesus. Take his yoke upon you—take his way of life upon you, that you may find with the grace of God that his yoke becomes easy and your burden light.


Canong Greg+


About canongreg

I have been Rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Wellsboro, PA since 1994.
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